I nearly died from alcohol poisoning when I was seventeen. It was the bottom-shelf, plastic-bottle vodka from a liquor store in Portsmouth, the kind we see discarded in alleys and not recycling bins. I was hospitalized and intubated. The nurses accidentally ruptured and paralyzed my vocal cord, leaving me whispering for the next nine years.
Over those nine years I endured periodic arrests, near-misses with death, progressive drug addiction, and graduation to daily injection and suicidal thoughts. Help came later than some would have appreciated. I’m grateful to have survived as a result of the treatment I finally received five years ago. Many died on waiting lists in 2012 without linkage to services while waiting for treatment, in lieu of treatment, or after treatment. Vital supports are emerging today, but too late for 478 New Hampshire residents who died in 2016.
All told, my recovery has cost the state under $3,000. Between court costs, damage to public property, medical costs, and lost productivity, my unchecked addiction cost New Hampshire approximately $190,000.
Since working in the addiction field and advocacy arena it’s become obvious to me that most of the shame and harm that I and my family endured was preventable. Today I walk a shaky line between gratitude and rage. I live, but others are not so fortunate. I’ve found my people – survivors and our many allies – and as we find each other we toil together over a common cause of improving conditions for vulnerable Granite Staters. We also find our voices and bring our passion to the voting booths.
Five percent of gross profits from state-controlled alcohol sales is not the cure for our current troubles. Those dedicated funds are managed well, if cautiously, to grow impactful solutions to addiction throughout the state. But five percent is a dark line that advocates drew in 2000. We’re not moving that line in the age of fentanyl, at the dawn of a methamphetamine surge, and certainly not at the height of alcohol sales and problem drinking in New Hampshire.
I will be at the New Hampshire State House on Thursday, April 6th to demand a fully funded Alcohol Fund in the state budget. Because over my dead body would I be caught telling the families of 478 people that we ought to settle for anything less.